The recent heat wave is helping push music out the door of the local hotboxes (i.e., stuffy apartments and un-air-conditioned clubs) and onto Seattle's sidewalks, at least in a couple spots. From the return of the little old man on Capitol Hill who sits on a lawn chair blasting country songs on a tiny beat-up stereo all summer, to the debut performance from the as of yet unnamed duo of The Stranger's own Dan Paulus and Michael Ellsworth, who tinkered with a table full of toy instruments in an experimental pop jam in Occidental Park during last week's First Thursday, the open-air exhibitions are appearing more often than mosquito bites around the city. The more impromptu outdoor shows the better, in my book. Also on First Thursday, the Outlaw art-show curators at Luscious studios had a couple bands and a DJ in a brick loft space in Pioneer Square. Although I had to head out before the action really started (I'd made seeing the Cramps that night my top priority--fun show, although the band sounded a little slow), I love the idea of colliding visual art and music, and hope these guys put on more multimedia events (now that I've got my Cramps fix out of the way).
For those wanting to leave the city, though--sidewalk/loft shows and all--and turn the weekend into an excuse for a mini summer vacation, there are a couple cool under-the-radar festivals coming up over the next couple months. Next weekend, June 20 and 21, the Wäntage USA Total Fest 2003 brings the rock to Missoula, Montana, thanks to the indie label of the same name. Over the course of two days and two nights, you can see the likes of Japanther, Fireballs of Freedom, the Makers, International Playboys, the Quarterhorse, Midnight Thunder Express, BlöödHag, the Lights, and others (mostly regional, but a couple from other places around the country) play 30-minute sets for a little musical dim sum of sorts. The weekend also promises a film showing and a Total Fest Record Swap, for all the geeky collectors out there. For more info, check out www.wantageusa.com.
In August, Tom Ingram (of Las Vegas Shakedown fame, but who did not have a hand in the L.A. Shakedown meltdown) is throwing yet another weekend of "primitive rock 'n' roll, garage punk, and rockabilly" with the Las Vegas Rockaround on September 26-28. The list has yet to be fully confirmed, but a cursory search through www.vegasshakedown.net promises Andre Williams, the Cynics, the Gore Gore Girls, and a growing cast of others at the Gold Coast Casino. Even though it's hot as fuck that time of year in Vegas, the Rockaround should be one hell of a party if you like this kind of rock 'n' roll, and thankfully the show and the accommodations will be together.
This Saturday promises a lot of recommended shows crammed into one night, making the decision of where to go out right here in town pretty tough for fans of certain genres. The Empty Records showcase at Chop Suey could wrestle for the punk crowd's attendance, many of whom I bet will also hit the Dictators show at the Crocodile. Definitely due some appreciation, Empty has put out a ton of excellent releases from various Northwest favorites over its past 16 years in this region, including stuff from Crackerbash, Supersuckers, Steel Wool, Scared of Chaka, Murder City Devils, the Gloryholes, Dead Moon, and many more. The label is worthy of much respect in this city, and tonight marks one of two upcoming Empty fan nights with the Catheters, Sicko, Midnight Thunder Express, the Rotten Apples, and Mea Culpa--who recently released a great new album on Empty (the other night, with Gas Huffer, the Lost Sounds, the Gloryholes, and the Pinkos happens at the Sunset on August 3). Although the label recently set up shop in Portland, Empty still deserves a healthy amount of local love. Also on Saturday, over at Graceland, it's summer prom time once again. I went last year and had a blast. The club puts a lot of effort into throwing a great party, complete with streamers, balloons, an old-fashioned photographer, spiked punch, and the strong encouragement to dress up (tonight's theme is D&D). Musical entertainment includes the Blood Brothers, KRMTX, and Gatsby's American Dream. Just make sure you're willing to dance if you plan to hit this night--Graceland proms don't require dates, just lots of movement.
And finally, congrats to Jenny Tsiakals, who will be taking over Frank Neito's job at the Crocodile, where she will be handling promotions, publicity, and local booking under the talented Christine Wood; and goodbye to Cap Hill record store Orpheum, which plans to close its doors soon .